Online phenomenon

Published 6:29 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leader file photo Edwardsburg natives Megan and Liz Mace, pictured in 2009 at age 16, were rising YouTube stars after a Skyped-in appearance on “Oprah.” Now based in Nashville, they will perform a free concert at the University Park Mall in Mishawaka March 2.

Edwardsburg natives and fraternal twins Megan and Liz Mace — touring as “Megan and Liz” — will perform a free concert and signing at 6 p.m. Friday at the FYE store at University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

The Nashville-based 19-year-olds’ pen pop anthems that are as infectious as they are inspiring. Because of those tunes, the girls have resonated with an entire generation of fans via social media.

Right now, they’ve racked up close to 100 million views on YouTube and their music channel is ranked No. 34 with 500,000 subscribers. As the numbers grow daily, their Facebook page exceeds 144,000, while 135,000 people follow them on Twitter. The duo’s songwriting and performing talents are elevating them far beyond the digital realm though.

Megan and Liz always knew they wanted to make music. Inspired by Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera as well as Disney films such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” the girls would film themselves singing original songs at 10 years old.

“We’d record ourselves on the family video camera and tell our mom she had to send it to a record label,” said Megan with a smile. “When YouTube came along, we thought it would be the perfect platform to get our music out there.”

The girls told Leader Publications in 2009 they believed their dream to become singer-songwriters was becoming a reality.

“I’d love to make an album with our originals and go on tour,” Megan said.

They said that they are doing what they love, and others can too.

“Dream big,” Liz said.

“Use the internet — that’s the way to get out there,” Megan said.

YouTube gave them a launch pad, but they utilized the site’s capabilities to the fullest in a grassroots manner. In 2007, Megan and Liz uploaded their first video of the original song

“This Note,” and they began turning heads. They would add a new video weekly, take requests for cover songs, and communicate with every single viewer who contacted them. As a result of building that connection with the audience, their presence grew organically into an online phenomenon.

Liz said, “We share everything with our fans, and the music does too. We pride ourselves on having an incredible relationship with the people who listen to the songs. We’ve known some of these fans since the very first video. We try to make relatable and honest music for ourselves and for them.”

Having become a veritable internet sensation, a producer from “Oprah” reached out to them in 2009. Megan and Liz were supposed to “audition” for the show on Skype, but suddenly Oprah Winfrey surprised them by broadcasting the video chat live on national television and introducing them to another high-profile fan, none other than Taylor Swift. Gaining endorsement from Swift and Winfrey, they continued releasing original music via iTunes independently (selling almost 3,000 singles a week since the Oprah appearance) and now they’re approaching 100,000  in digital singles sales.

The group’s new music is set to captivate even more fans though. “Old School Love” is a sweet standout that floats on their lilting harmonies. The lyrics call for a return to “Old School Love.”

Megan said, “Back in the old days, if you liked someone, you didn’t just text or Facebook them. Instead, you had to actually go out and make a grand gesture expressing your interest. The song laments that romance is gone. However, that’s what everyone really wants.”

It’s easy to love Megan and Liz, because they’ve got a larger goal with their music. On the anti-bullying statement, “Are You Happy Now?” Megan’s soulful acoustic guitar calls for change alongside her sister’s soaring vocals. The single’s music video was directed by “90210” and “Scream” star Shenae Grimes on the set of “90210,” and it sees the girls using their platform to spread a little hope.

“There’s so much negativity in high school,” Liz said. “Sometimes, kids can be so heartless. The song asks, ‘Are you really happy when you hurt others?’ The song is about knowing that there are other people out there who feel the way you do.  Most of the time, the bullies have experienced something bad themselves. We felt really strong about this message. We have our ballads and upbeat songs, but we wanted to write something that meant even more. This tells a story and can potentially help other people.”